Friday, May 9, 2008

Last Tango in Buenos Aires

Well, our bags are (nearly) packed and we're finally ready to move on from Argentina. If everything goes according to plan (and sadly, this is not an insignificantly-sized "if"), we'll be on a northbound flight to Mexico City tomorrow night with a connecting flight to Cancun on Sunday.

When we booked the trip, we were able to snag a direct flight from Buenos Aires to Cancun on Aerolineas Argentinas, but we should have known that itinerary was too good to be true. The troubled airline canceled the route and hooked us up with Aero Mexico instead. Only they also managed to cancel our itineraries at the same time. And the Aero Mexico flight isn't direct; we have to fly overnight to Mexico City and then sit in the airport for many hours before making our way to Cancun. [censored]

I've been sorting things out for the past three days, and I think we're finally good to go. This is assuming there is no massive incompetence on display at the Aerolineas counter tomorrow. We'll see.

So anyway, it's our last chance to post Argentina-related content while we're still in Argentina. Buckle up; I'm going to do my best to blast through all the rest of our photos.

We left off with our arrival in Mendoza. The wine capital of Argentina. Turns out it's also one of the crime capitals of Argentina. The streets there are a little tougher than the ones in Buenos Aires; Liz had to fend off a couple guys that were trying to snag one of our bags from right under her nose in the park. The idiots would have been disappointed to find that the bag they wanted was filled with nothing but dirty laundry, but it still would have sucked to lose most of my Thai T-shirt collection.

It was also hard to find a room. The first place we checked had a microscopic private room with one single bed and one bunk bed. We gambled that we would find something better and lost... having to settle for a dorm room with abysmal shower and toilet facilities all the way across town.

But the next day we finally found something good. Well, Liz did. A charming unlisted hostel just outside the really happening part of town with massive private rooms that were nicer than lots of hotel rooms we've found in the States. On top of that we had the best bathroom of the trip. Just imagine, the sheer luxury of having a tub so water doesn't pour all over the ground when you shower. Ahh.

The single must-do activity in Mendoza is wine touring. There are a couple of "tour agencies" that offer "guided" mountain bike tours, but we found this to be mostly a scam. Another American couple at our hostel paid something like 70 pesos each for their package, which included transportation. We took the bus for 1.4 pesos each, and rented bikes for 15 pesos each, so we came out 53.6 pesos ahead. Of course, our bikes were absolute rubbish, but then again, theirs were too.

Our first stop, at a winemaking museum that doubles as a fairly large capacity operating winery.

I think I'm ready to help out on the farm, Don.

The ride was actually kind of lame at first... there was lots of traffic, construction and pollution. But once you got a few kilometers down the road, it improved a bit.

This is actually inside some giant cauldron-esque wine-storage thing at the Familia di Tommasso winery.

Descending to the cellar.

The Tommasso winery put on an excellent tasting of 5 different wines for just 10 pesos a head.

My first taste of absinthe. In case you hadn't guessed, it's the mint-colored fluid that looks deceivingly light and refreshing. It actually tastes like Scope, as my friend Kyle said it would.

Baby clothes get baby bear head mannequins.

The other great attraction in Mendoza (in our eyes, anyway) is the Parque San Martin, a massive park on the edge of town where we spent a few afternoons reading, walking and just hanging out.

Just getting the name out there.

They have all this public exercise equipment there, most of which appears to be pull-up bars. We couldn't figure out what to do with this one, though.

After traveling such a great distance, we decided to spend almost a week in Mendoza. But Liz, of course, couldn't sit still that long. She booked a minibus trip up to see Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in the Andes.

This is apparently where they filmed "Seven Years in Tibet."

Here's some kind of Yellowstone-esque mineral deposit. I wasn't there to verify, but Liz swears that that was a normal sized building. It looks like a model to me for some reason.

And here's the merchandise. They leave objects out to get coated and then sell them as souvenirs.

More views:

These views are pretty neat-looking, but honestly we saw much more spectacular in the Salta region. Coming soon.....

Yet another country we came extremely close to physically but never visited. Chile.

Back in town at the Parque San Martin again, we found these two Ash-dogs that were going nuts over a plastic bag.

That's it for Mendoza. From there we took yet another overnight bus up to Salta. I'll see if I can't get the pictures uploaded and posted in the next few hours.

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